Fatimah (centre) interacting with one of the children at the centre. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

KUCHING: Nurseris (taska) and kindergartens (tadika) are essential services particularly for working parents, said Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.

She said some had questioned why taska and tadika were operating even in Covid-19 red zones.

“There are children whose parents are both working or frontliners, so there is no one to take care of them while they are at work,” she said after visiting The Playschool — Taska Bimbingan Cahaya at Jalan Sungai Maong Baharu here today.

She said it was important for these parents to be able to go to work with peace of mind, knowing that their children were being taken care of in a safe and quality environment.

“Therefore, parents can work and gain incomes to support their families. Their services will also benefit the public as some work as doctors and in other sectors. Early childhood education institutions (IPAKKs) are a very important support system for these parents,” she said.

Fatimah revealed there were 160 taska and tadika operating in red zones at the moment, involving 1,770 children.

“For yellow zones, 62 taska and tadika are in operation, involving 1,498 children. The green zones have 108 centres going on, with 2,245 children involved,” she said.

The minister said taska were abundant in Kuching, noting that in rural areas, parents were more inclined to place their children under the care of family members at home.

“But in the urban areas, both parents are usually working people and there are no family members available to take care of their children — so they really need this service,” she said.

“During our daily monitoring and visits, we will observe the compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs),” she said.

She added most of the IPAKKs are not operating at full capacity, adding that her ministry and its early childhood development division would continue to monitor these centres. She expressed satisfaction that most of the institutions were adhering strictly to the SOPs.

Sharing her thoughts after observing Taska Bimbingan Cahaya, Fatimah said the safety of the children was of the utmost importance. 

She noted that physical distancing was practised during mealtimes and activities, and the equipment used was cleaned daily.

“Here, we can find children of different ages, ranging from a few months old to a few years of age. It is good that their movements are planned and arranged in such a way that at all times, there are not too many children around,” she said.

At the same time, she stressed that all parties including the taska, parents and guardians had to play their part to ensure the safety of the children.

Meanwhile, Taska Bimbingan Cahaya principal Eileen Soon believed that it would be safer for parents to send their children to licensed and registered centres compared to unlicensed babysitters or nannies.

She said Taska Bimbingan Cahaya had three outlets here — Jalan Sungai Maong Baharu, Pelita Heights and BDC.

Soon explained that the Jalan Sungai Maong Baharu centre began operating in January this year while, the other two had been in operation since 2014.

“Running a taska has never been a profitable business, but we are running on passion and do what we can. The welfare of the children and the team are our priority,” she said.

She added that some parents had to withdraw their children from the taska due to difficulties faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I feel that a child should not be at home. If their parents do not mind sending them to the centre, we are ready to waiver the fees because the child has to come to school to learn,” she said. 

Also present during the visit were Family and Childhood Development Assistant Minister Rosey Yunus and Taska Bimbingan Cahaya owner Narmit Khaira.